Last Updated May 2, 2007 7:14 PM EDT
E-mail is an effective medium in its own right, but it is also useful as a way to enhance other forms of communication. Because e-mail doesn't work in all situations, you need to consider whether a telephone call or a conventional letter might be more appropriate.
If you need to have a two-way discussion with someone, for example, a telephone call is best. But you can send an e-mail beforehand to exchange background information, and again after your call to summarize the outcome of your discussion. It's best to write a letter if you wish to include confidential information or if you're covering a formal topic and you want to ensure that the recipient has a printed copy of the information you're sending. Again, you may want to follow up with an e-mail to make sure the person received your letter and to ask for their comments.
E-mail can play an important role in conjunction with Web sites and other aspects of marketing. Including e-mail capabilities within your Web site makes it easier for site visitors to contact you or request additional information. Also, make sure that you always post an e-mail address at the end of your company advertising. When customers contact you, it will be easy to capture their details and open up a sales process.
E-mail can also be used effectively as a follow-up to a direct mail campaign. Or if your company uses telemarketing to contact customers or sales prospects, it's a good idea to follow up with e-mail.
Although e-mail is a very efficient method of communicating information, it is not the most appropriate medium if you are going have a detailed discussion with someone. In this situation, using the telephone is probably more suitable. You can, however, use e-mail in conjunction with the telephone to make your conversation more effective.
Whether you are having a discussion with one person or holding a conference call with several people, it's a good idea to e-mail them in advance with an outline of the key points you wish to discuss and to arrange a convenient time for the call. This gives the other parties an opportunity to prepare and gather information so that they can make a useful contribution to the discussion. It also allows them to arrange their schedules so they can speak to you without interruption.
During the telephone call, you can e-mail information that might facilitate the discussion—a set of figures, a diagram, or other material that would be difficult to describe by phone. After the phone meeting, you can send an e-mail summarizing the main conclusions and action points you've decided on. Alternatively, if you're using a voice-conferencing service, you can ask the service provider to record the call and e-mail participants an electronic copy of the conversation as an attachment. This facility is particularly useful for confirming the points of long, complicated discussions.
Web sites are a proven, cost-effective method of giving visitors access to large amounts of complex company and product information. However, those resources can be wasted if a Web site includes no facilities for communication.
E-mail opens up an effective means of turning browsers into buyers. Each site should include a "Contact Us" page or section that displays the company address, telephone, and fax details. It should also include an e-mail address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By adding an electronic form to your site that encourages visitors to register their details, you can provide an even more valuable asset for your company. Keep it simple and don't ask visitors for too many details, but be sure to request their e-mail address. Once you have that, you can get back to them with product details or special offers that might interest them. This can create valuable sales leads which the sales force can follow up on.
Another good marketing tool is to give Web site visitors the option of subscribing to e-mail alerts. Here they can register their interest in particular products or services and receive a personalized e-mail whenever there is a new development.
Most companies use advertising to promote products and services, and it's easy to increase the return on expenditures by including an e-mail address in the advertisement. This type of direct response advertising encourages readers to respond by requesting further information via e-mail.
E-mail has an advantage over the use of postal addresses or telephone numbers as a response mechanism because it's quick and easy to use. Don't forget that advertisers have to overcome a high inertia factor, so you'll want to employ the simplest technique possible.
Another benefit of including an e-mail address on advertisements is that it enables you to measure the effectiveness of your campaign in terms of the number of responses. You can measure overall responses or go a little further and compare the performance of different media by using a different e-mail address on each publication such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some companies find it useful to send information to customers and prospects via conventional mail, known as direct mail advertising. This type of advertising is often used to communicate with smaller or more specialized groups of customers and sales prospects.
A direct mail campaign can be made even more effective by using e-mail in conjunction with mailings. By sending a "teaser" via e-mail, you can encourage the audience to watch out for the main mailing. For example: "In a few days, you'll find out how you could be saving your company thousands of dollars." Follow up with an e-mail reminder at an appropriate point after the mail shot has been sent: "We hope you received details of our great special offer. Don't forget to reply by October 15th to qualify for our best discount."
Once a prospective customer has responded, you can then e-mail them on a regular basis with product updates or future special offers.
Telemarketing, as most business people know, is the use of the telephone to carry out market research or to sell products and services to customers and prospects. Telemarketing can be a powerful marketing tool, but by combining it with e-mail you can increase its effectiveness. For example, a telemarketing department can send, as e-mail attachments, product information such as data, diagrams, or other illustrations that help the prospect to understand what your company is offering.
After making a telemarketing call, send an e-mail thanking the prospect for their time and confirming any product, price, or delivery details that have been discussed or agreed upon.
E-mail is an ideal medium for an Internet forum. This type of discussion group can be used by people with similar interests in any field. In business, it's increasingly seen as a way to build stronger relationships with customers.
One type of business user might be a technology company, which could set up a forum for customers to exchange technical information with each other and discuss questions of mutual interest. If a number of different customers are experiencing similar problems, the forum could also be a means of resolving some of these difficulties.
The company that hosts the forum sets up an e-mail facility on its Web site and manages the process. E-mails are posted on a notice board and members can contribute to any of a number of relevant discussions.
E-mail is sometimes seen as a communications tool suitable for all situations. However, a letter or telephone call may be more appropriate under certain circumstances. Assess the situation and make sure you're using the appropriate method of communication at the right time.
It is more appropriate to send a conventional letter when dealing with certain types of formal correspondence, such as commercial agreements, appointments and dismissals, confirmation of contracts, and other material which might be legally binding. However, you might want to e-mail the recipient in advance to let them know you are sending a letter. Although techniques such as digital signatures have given e-mail increased status as a legal document, a printed letter with a handwritten signature continues to carry greater weight in the law.
Everyone is familiar with E-mail as a well-established tool for day-to-day business communications. It can also be used to support your sales and marketing processes. By integrating e-mail into your Web site and using it in conjunction with advertising, direct mail, and telemarketing campaigns, you can make your marketing budget go further and get superior results.